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Petition legislation to add penalties for misrepresentation

Oklahoma City_State Rep. Jabar Shumate today announced he will file legislation to crack down on fraudulent practices that have plagued Oklahoma's initiative petition process.

"Too often, the paid signature collectors working in our petition process will say just about anything to get someone to sign his or her name," said Shumate, D-Tulsa. "Several of my constituents have signed a petition only to later learn of the true contents of the ballot question they are 'supporting.' Unfortunately, there's no way for them to correct their mistake."

Under current law, there is no method for a voter to have his or her name removed from an initiative proposal.

Shumate plans to file legislation in the 2008 session that will allow voters to contact the Office of the Secretary of State to have their name removed from a ballot petition.

The legislation will also establish guidelines for individuals collecting signatures to ensure they face penalties if they mislead citizens about the content of a ballot proposal.

"Our initiative petition process cannot survive if it lacks integrity," Shumate said. "My legislation will help ensure that voters signing their name to a petition truly support the proposed ballot question."

In recent years, the state's initiative petition process has been plagued by alleged abuses. When an initiative petition effort was launched to place a fuel tax increase on the ballot in 2005, there were numerous reports of voters being misled to believe the proposal would slash fuel prices. That may be one reason the initiative obtained enough signatures to go to the ballot while being rejected by 87 percent of the voters - the largest margin of defeat for any state question in Oklahoma history.

Currently, an initiative petition is being circulated that would put a state question on the ballot to dramatically alter state efforts to aid minority groups. Shumate said his constituents have complained of misleading tactics used by signature collectors on that effort.

"Our initiative petition process must be above reproach,"

Shumate said. "My legislation will clean up the system and reduce fraud.

I believe it will receive bipartisan support."

The 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature will convene next February.

From the Office of Rep. Jabar Shumate

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